Psychiatric diagnoses

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect anyone at any time in life. Being raped, bullied or involved in a serious accident may be the triggering trauma that can cause tremendous pain. But help is available.

What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Post-traumatic stress disorder can occur in people who experience a traumatic event that is perceived as life-threatening, such as sexual abuse, mental and physical abuse, a death, torture, war, becoming a refugee, natural disasters, robberies or accidents.

People with post-traumatic stress disorder try to forget the event but are unable to. They experience the trauma over and over again, in a in the form of memories when they are awake and nightmares at night. This can cause feelings of severe discomfort and lead to insomnia, anxiety, physical pain, difficulty concentrating and isolation.

How does this affect a person’s life?

PTSD affects a person’s life differently depending on its severity. One person may continue going to work and basically living as usual, while more severe symptoms can knock a person out and leave them too frightened to leave the house.

The memories of the trauma may be triggered by sensory impressions and events in everyday life. Therefore it is common for the person to begin avoiding situations and people who can trigger the painful memories, even family and friends.

PTSD makes the body excessively vigilant. This makes the person more easily frightened and irritated, which can trigger intense outbursts of anger. At the moment, it may seem that what a person has been through has destroyed their life forever. This does not have to be the case.

Should I seek help?

A trauma does not have to result in PTSD, but if you suspect this is the case, contact a health centre or psychiatric outpatient clinic. It is never too late to seek care, but the earlier treatment begins, the better the prognosis for recovery. 30 percent of those who receive treatment within a month recover within a year.

Relatives can also ask for support when contacting healthcare services. It is important in the treatment of PTSD for those closest to the victim to be present and provide support, which can be demanding.

Diagnosis and treatment

A PTSD diagnosis requires a thorough examination  with the aid of the patient’s story. You may be asked to fill in rating scales so that the doctor will be able to see if you meet the requirements for PTSD or if your difficulties are due to something else.

One treatment that has been proven to be effective for PTSD is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which works by daring to approach the trauma step by step in a controlled environment. This reduces the anxiety reactions, and you can learn how to handle the memories. Another type of therapy is called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), which uses a technique involving eye movements instead. Antidepressant medications can also help PTSD patients.